BY CATHY SCHAEFER, GRACE ATTENDER
Psalm 18 (selected verses, emphasis added)
1 I love you, Lord; you are my strength. 2 The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the strength of my salvation, and my stronghold. 3 I will call on the Lord, who is worthy of praise, for he saves me from my enemies. 4 The ropes of death surrounded me; the floods of destruction swept over me. 5 The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death itself stared me in the face. 6 But in my distress I cried out to the Lord; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry reached his ears.
9 He opened the heavens and came down . . .
16 He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters.
17 He delivered me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. 18 They attacked me at a moment when I was weakest, but the Lord upheld me. 19 He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me.
27 You rescue those who are humble, but you humiliate the proud. 28 Lord, you have brought light to my life; my God, you light up my darkness. 29 In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall. 30 As for God, his way is perfect. All the Lord’s promises prove true. He is a shield for all who look to him for protection. 31 For who is our God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock? 32 God arms me with strength; he has made my way safe.
46 The Lord lives! Blessed be my rock! May the God of my salvation be exalted! 47 He is the God who pays back those who harm me; he subdues the nations under me 48 and rescues me from my enemies. You hold me safe beyond the reach of my enemies; you save me from violent opponents. 49 For this, O Lord, I will praise you among the nations; I will sing joyfully to your name. 50 You give great victories to your king; you show unfailing love to your anointed, to David and all his descendants forever.
$20,000. My jaw nearly hit the floor when Pastor Mark gleefully shared his fundraising goal for the CROP Hunger Walk. $20,000??? I was already feeling nervous and unsure about serving as CROP Walk Organizer for my church in Naperville, IL, so our youth pastor’s announcement had me seriously considering resigning on the spot! At the time, the youth-led CROP Walk effort was the biggest, most successful community outreach service project at our church, largely due to Pastor Mark’s passion, energy and enthusiasm. It was a great cause. The funds raised were distributed by Church World Service both locally and globally to help feed hungry people. And it was true that our growing congregation’s participation and contributions had been steadily increasing each year. But still, $20,000??? Our previous high was $15,000. Could we really raise $5,000 more just one year later? As usual, Pastor Mark was confident (and almost annoyingly optimistic), but I had my doubts….
Pastor Mark is a goofy, fun-loving kind of guy who was determined to meet his fundraising goal. And so when someone suggested the Walk needed a “mascot,” he challenged our congregation by vowing to dress up as a cheerleader (female, no less—his wife’s idea!) for the CROP Walk if we raised the $20,000. You can imagine the response this created from the congregation—and especially from the youth! Now, it just so happened there was a representative from Thrivent Financial visiting our church the weekend Pastor Mark issued this challenge. She was inspired by the excitement it generated and by our ambitious target. And so it came to pass that Thrivent offered to “up the ante” by pledging to kick in an additional $5,000 to the cause if our church met this fundraising goal.
Man, I was really feeling the pressure! I was doing everything in my power to ensure we met our goal, but privately, I was also battling my doubts and fears. I did a lot of praying for God to help us succeed, but I couldn’t stop thinking how terrible it would be if we failed to obtain the $5,000 incentive from Thrivent. My committee and I worked diligently for weeks to advertise the Walk, educate people about the issue of hunger, recruit walkers, sign-out pledge forms, and solicit contributions. I even sewed a cheerleader skirt for Pastor Mark when he couldn’t locate one that fit him properly!
The day of the CROP Walk finally arrived. I woke up feeling fearful, anxious, and less than hopeful we could pull this off. Worse yet, it was raining. Great. How many people would show up to walk in the rain?! And so I began praying. Well, whining, really – I unleashed all my doubts, fears, frustrations and concerns to God. When I finished ranting and got quiet, God spoke to my heart more clearly and distinctly than I had ever experienced before. First, a question: “Have you done everything you could to make this a success?” I answered, “Yes, Lord, I do believe that I did everything I could.” Then I received this amazing and mind-blowing message from God: “Good. Now it’s my turn. Watch and see what I am going to do.”
My doubts and fears were instantly replaced by confidence, trust and big hope. I headed to the CROP Walk full of joy and anticipation to see what God was going to do! When all was said and done, God provided $22,000 through the walkers from our church. Combined with the funds from Thrivent, we raised $27,000 to feed the hungry that year! Pastor Mark provided lots of fun and laughs by attending the Walk dressed as a cheerleader. There was a record turnout, and we all walked in the beautiful sunshine (which God sent after the rain), while rejoicing in the amazing display of His power and goodness we had witnessed that day! I was sure to give God all the credit whenever anyone tried to congratulate me on our successful fundraising efforts. It was all Him! All glory be to God!
This story is one of my favorite examples of God’s faithfulness—both to me and to His people. I will never forget how God spoke to me that morning, or how exciting it was to see His Spirit on the move that day! I feel blessed to have accumulated many stories of God’s faithfulness to me over the course of my life. It strengthens my faith and renews my hope to periodically remind myself of these stories—especially during difficult times when I can’t seem to discern exactly where God is or what He is doing.
In Psalm 18, David reviews all the ways that God has been faithful to him and has brought victory over his enemies time and time again. What’s amazing is that even though David had a reputation as a mighty warrior and respected king, he does not take any credit for his victories or success. This psalm is one long litany of all God’s mighty works and of praise and gratitude to God. There’s no doubt in David’s mind that God had heard and responded to his prayers. He praises God repeatedly for being his strength, his rock, his fortress, his savior, his shield, and his stronghold.
3 Traits We Should Emulate
In his sermon on Psalm 18, Dave identified 3 traits of David’s personality that we should strive to emulate: 1) a tenacious love, 2) a robust theology, and 3) unwavering gratitude.
Develop a tenacious love for God.
David had a deep, abiding love for the Lord, which is so apparent in the many Psalms he wrote. He went through some very painful and difficult circumstances, yet he continued to love the Lord and to cling to his faith in God. It’s easy to love God when things are going our way and all is well with our world. But when we are hurt or in pain, struggling with difficulties, or facing seemingly impossible obstacles, what then? Dave says we must determine to love God, no matter what. “I will love you, Lord.” Even when we don’t feel His presence, even when we don’t understand what He’s doing, even when it feels like our prayers are not being heard or answered. When Jesus was asked what the most important commandment was, he replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)
Develop a robust theology.
Dave says that we all have our own personal theology, and basically our theology is what we believe to be true about God. David had an authentic, experiential knowledge of God’s character. Much of what he learned about God throughout his life is described throughout his Psalms. There are 2 primary ways that we can grow in our knowledge of God and His character. The first is to read, study and meditate on Scripture. God’s character is revealed everywhere in its pages. The second is to communicate with God in prayer. God wants to be in relationship with us, and healthy relationships require regular two-way communication: talking and listening. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. (James 4:8)
Practice unwavering gratitude.
David mentions repeatedly in the Psalms how he cried out to God for help, and God answered him. His natural and automatic response to receiving God’s help is gratitude, praise, and thanksgiving. Dave believes that we don’t practice gratitude enough, and no doubt, he’s right. Think about how much we appreciate being thanked by other people when we do something for them. Then stop and think about ALL that God has done for us! Do we take the time to sincerely thank the Lord for all His gifts and wonderful works? Make a habit of noticing 3 blessings every day that you can give thanks for. May we develop an “attitude of gratitude,” and let praise and thanksgiving flow naturally from our lips! I will thank you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High. ~Psalm 9:1-2
Questions for Reflection
Do you want to love and trust more in God? What would that look and feel like in your life?
What are some of your favorite words to describe God? Why did you choose those words? What do they mean to you?
Are you more apt to try to accomplish things in your own strength, or do you regularly ask God for His help? Why or Why not? Do you believe God wants to help you?
Can you think of examples of God’s faithfulness to you? Times God has answered your prayers? How can you express your gratitude and praise to God?
Listen to Dave's sermon on Psalm 18.